AMSTERDAM Jan 30 A Dutch court will rule on
Wednesday whether Royal Dutch Shell is responsible for
pollution in Nigeria, a case activists say could set a precedent
for damage claims related to the foreign activities of
Four Nigerians and interest group Friends of the Earth filed
the suit in 2008 in The Hague, where Shell has its joint global
headquarters, seeking unspecified reparations for lost income
from contaminated land and waterways in the Niger Delta.
The Nigerians - fishermen and farmers - said they could no
longer feed their families because the region had been polluted
by oil from Shell's pipelines and production facilities.
The pollution is a result of oil spills in 2004, 2005 and
2007, they said.
It is the first time a Dutch-registered company has been
sued in a domestic court for offences allegedly carried out by a
The suit targets Shell's parent company in the Netherlands
and its Nigerian subsidiary, Shell Petroleum Development Co
(SPDC). It is the largest oil and gas company in Nigeria,
Africa's top energy producer, with an output of more than 1
million barrels of oil or equivalent per day.
Shell argued in court that the oil leaks were caused by
sabotage and it had cleaned them up.
In October, Shell lawyers said the company has played its
part in cleaning up the Delta, which accounts for more than 50
percent of Nigeria's oil exports.
Geert Ritsema of Friends of the Earth said if the judgment
held Shell responsible for the pollution in the Niger Delta, it
could lead to claims against oil majors in other countries.
A Shell spokesman said the company would only comment after
the panel of judges announced their verdict.
The Niger Delta has about 31 million inhabitants and
includes the Ogoniland region. It is the main source of food for
the impoverished, rural population.